To become the world’s leading land registry for an open approach to data is one of HM Land Registry’s ambitions, as we laid out in our recent Business Strategy.
We are working towards publishing a wide variety of data in high quality and accessible formats to enable it to be used by anyone with an interest in land registration information. We hope this will support the growing digital economy and add to the nation’s land and property geospatial intelligence.
A recent Law Society Gazette article termed this particular approach to data as opening the way for ‘Compare the conveyancer’. In our Business Strategy, we set out how we are looking at publishing our conveyancer data to provide citizens with the real picture on how well their conveyancer is performing, and to enable those same conveyancers to track their relative performance. In this post, I want to set out how and why we are looking at opening up the data.
Who we are working with: high volume customers
We have started sending a monthly workbook to the 500 customers who send us the highest volume of applications. These are the customers who we plan to list in our conveyancing data and so it was important for us to keep them up to date about their applications and how we could work together to improve these applications to make sure they are processed simply and without delay. The workbook may also help them identify what we can do better for them.
Why we will be doing this: providing greater transparency
We hold a rich variety of publishable data that would be of benefit to other government departments, our customers and citizens alike. We have committed to making all our publishable data accessible and to work closely with our main partners and the industry in doing so. This is part of our aim to make conveyancing simpler, faster and cheaper for everyone.
We are working on different areas to achieve this aim. Right now, however, holding us back is the amount of requisitions we send; more than 5,000 each day! A requisition is a request for further information or action that we have had to send conveyancers before their applications can be completed. The work we do with conveyancers to improve the registration process is a high priority for us and we need to be more consistent with how and when we tell our customers about the requisitions we send. I talked about this in an article I wrote recently for the Law Society.
Our plans for greater transparency are part of our wider commitment to the rest of government (as set out in the Housing White Paper: Fixing our broken housing market) to support development and financial stability and to improve the competitive markets for citizens in their everyday life. This is part of how we are supporting the Government’s Industrial Strategy but also part of how we can work with the Competitions and Market Authority (the CMA) to provide greater transparency in this market. The CMA has concluded that there is not enough information available on price, quality, and service to help those who need legal support to choose the best option. We have been involved in discussions with the regulators and membership bodies in the legal sector about what part the data we hold can play.
How we will do this: working with the sector
In order to provide citizens with the comparative information about conveyancers that we have committed to, we are looking at publishing our data showing how many registration applications conveyancers have sent us, and how many requisitions we have had to send back in reply, in order to process these applications.
We are currently working with the legal and conveyancing sectors to understand their views about our proposal to publish this data in 2018.
We are currently planning to publish:
- a downloadable comma separated value (CSV) file which could name the 500 customers who sent us the highest volume of applications (year to date) and show the percentage of the applications they sent us which needed further work before we could process them; and
- a chart that tracks the data mentioned above for the top 50 customers by volume of applications sent.
What we can do: being more consistent
There are things we need to improve which are as important as conveyancers improving what they do. We know we need to be more consistent with when and how we raise requisitions with our customers. To help address this, we are training our caseworkers to increase their use of standard forms of requisition.
There will always be occasions where our caseworkers need to send ‘free-format’ requisitions that cannot be easily categorised and we currently do that in about 25% of cases. This is too high, given that many of the requisitions we raise are on the same overall issues. Fewer free-format applications will give us better data that will help us become more consistent about when we raise requisitions, and customers will receive clearer information about the action they need to take.
While conveyancers are still responsible for completing applications with due care and attention, we can help them improve by giving them better data and advice, and a more consistent service. So this is not just about conveyancers improving the quality of their applications; we need to improve too, and by working together to do better across the board we can help make conveyancing simpler, faster and cheaper for all of us.